Eggplant Dengaku | VeganMoFo 2019 Day Twenty

A few days ago, Susan over at Kittens Gone Lentil offhandedly mentioned enjoying eggplant dengaku, and I was intrigued: I’d never heard of it! (Or so I thought.) Turns out, there’s an eggplant dengaku recipe in Appetite for Reductionone of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I had to try it!

Isa’s recipe has you slice and broil the eggplant, then brush the slices with a sweet and salty (but incredibly simple!) miso sauce. Sounds like a recipe for deliciousness, and it is. I had a pound of those cute thin little Japanese eggplants from the farmers market, so I sliced them up. The recipe is intended for two pounds of eggplant, though, so I decided to supplement with a head of broccoli instead. Why not?! Instead of broiling the broc, I chopped it into florets and roasted it, then put the florets on the pan with the broiled eggplant slices, glazed everything, and gave it all a final quick broil until the miso sauce bubbled.

I served my eggplant and broccoli dengaku with some brown rice and topped everything with scallions. I also whipped up a quick spicy peanut sauce because I didn’t think the glaze would provide enough sauciness for the rice, but it wasn’t entirely necessary. What a flavorful dish! The miso is so robust, and it pairs so well with the meltingly soft eggplant. It was almost too salty for me, though, so I think I’ll reduce the miso and soy sauce next time I make it.

I’m so glad I tried this recipe — it’s one I’ve overlooked in AfR all these years. Shame on me! And now I know that if I ever see vegan eggplant dengaku on a menu, I’d be wise to order it.

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A Chickwheat Seitan Fail | VeganMoFo 2019 Day One

Y’all. Y’ALL. I’m starting VeganMoFo with an epically wonderful fail. It seems appropriate in this new era of raw, unvarnished blogging, right?!

Yesterday evening I decided to get a head start on today’s dinner by preparing some seitan — specifically, the chickwheat shreds from Avocados and Ales. Let it be known that I’ve made seitan plenty of times in the past, using recipes from plenty of different sources. Although I’ve never been able to get it quite as juicy and tender as the kind you buy at the store, it’s always been perfectly fine, and I’ve never had any of the difficulties or spectacular fails I’ve read from other folks who’ve attempted seitan. (Ah, hubris.) So I was excited to try this recipe, which uses a new-to-me method: a long, intense kneading period in a food processor or KitchenAid rather than a few quick kneads by hand. I loved the look of the resulting chicken-style shreds and planned to use them in a quick stir-fry tonight.

Well. I blended up all the wet ingredients before adding the vital wheat gluten. As I stirred it all together, I thought the texture seemed… off. The dough was much softer, smoother and more liquidy than seitans of yore, and I couldn’t detect any of the distinctive gluten strands that tend to form as soon as you add the wheat gluten. But I persevered, dumping the mass into my KitchenAid (fitted with the dough hook) and beginning to knead.

And knead. And knead. And knead.

Rosie is judging me for my seitan fail. I GET IT, ROSIE.

Occasionally I stopped to check the dough, and I began to sense that something was amiss. There were a few stringy strands, sure, but nowhere near the amount I get even when kneading by hand. I’d reached the point where I had to make a decision: Either abandon the project or persevere — knowing that something was dreadfully, fundamentally wrong with my dough and that the results would likely not be as intended. I chose the latter. Maybe it would be edible, if not perfect. This is what I get for my hubris, I thought to myself. I shouldn’t have been so smug about seitan-making!

After 20 minutes (the time recommended by commenters who had also used the KitchenAid method!) my poor mixer was hot and my sad dough was… awful. Basically soft, sticky taffy. I dumped it all out onto aluminum foil as recommended and tried to fold it up into a packet, only to look on in absolute horror as the taffy-seitan oozed right out of the crevices. Panicking, I tried lifting it up to rearrange it on the foil. My hands sunk deep into the ooze and the foil ripped, a big glob of dough (batter?!) still attached.

Eventually I managed to wrangle about half the dough onto a new piece of foil, which I quickly wrapped up and dropped into my steamer. (The recipe calls for an InstantPot, but commenters say it works fine in a stovetop steamer too.) By now I knew the texture was wrong, but perhaps it would become something edible in the steamer.

It did not.

Two hours later (well past my bedtime) I removed the swollen foil packet and set it to cool for a few minutes. When I cautiously peeled back the foil and poked at the blob within, I realized it hadn’t improved with steaming. It was soft and squishy and could absolutely, positively not withstand the post-steam shredding that makes the chickwheat recipe so tantalizing.

As I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed, I had a sudden and horrible thought. I ran to the pantry and checked the flour shelf. Here’s what I saw.

A very obviously labeled bag of chickpea flour next to a canister of another flour.

On the left is a glass canister of white whole wheat flour. On the left is a bag — a very clearly, very obviously labeled bag — of vital wheat gluten.

Guess which one I used.

Sigh.

IN MY DEFENSE, I used to keep my vital wheat gluten in that jar, and Steven was the one who repurposed it for the white whole wheat flour a few weeks ago, so I didn’t have a tactile memory of putting flour in the jar. In my mind, it was still wheat gluten. Also, when I made the chickwheat, I measured the flour/wheat gluten by weight, so I just poured it in — I didn’t really look too closely at the consistency of the flour I used, or I would have noticed it didn’t have the very specific, silky texture of vital wheat gluten.

Frankly, I’m shocked it even remotely resembled seitan. There were definitely some strings forming when I kneaded it, likely because whole wheat flour has a slightly higher protein content than all-purpose flour. (And yes, I know one can make vital wheat gluten from flour.) I don’t know what I’ll do with the monstrosity, but I might try to flatten and fry it up into some kind of patty? Or dice it and fry it? We’ll see. Mostly I’m mad I used so much electricity kneading and steaming the dough, but hey, we have solar panels so at least I don’t have to be too guilty.

As for dinner, I made a quick fried rice, loosely following the method in Appetite for Reduction. I used green beans and garlic from my garden (woo!) along with a bell pepper from the farmers market and a shallot from the… grocery store. (I also used ginger paste, which it such a lifesaver when you don’t have fresh ginger!) It was good. It would’ve been better with some chickwheat shreds. Next time.

And with this illustrious beginning to MoFo, I’m off to the gym, a new habit for me. I lift weights! I have defined muscles! I wish I had the added protein from chickwheat shreds coursing through my veins so I could get even more ripped! NEXT TIME.

P.S. I see that today’s MoFo prompt asks participants to introduce themselves. You can check out my bio here — it’s still accurate!

P.P.S. In retrospect I know I should’ve taken more photos of my chickwheat process, but hey… I expected it to come out perfectly and I didn’t realize I’d need to document my failure. Oh well.

Peruvian Not-so-Purple Potato Soup

When I asked for suggestions of what to make with my CSA haul from last week, reader Emma responded with a great idea for using my pretty purple potatoes: the Peruvian Purple Potato Soup from Appetite for Reduction. With the temperatures dropping and autumn approaching, soup sounded mighty fine to me. I was excited to see how gorgeous my pretty purple potatoes were on the inside. They certainly were striking on the outside:

Close-up of a hand holding out a unpeeled potato with a deep purple skin.

S is taking up hand modeling.

I’ve eaten bona-fide blue-slash-purple potatoes before, so I know what they should look like on the inside. And, friends, it ain’t this:

Two peeled potatoes with normal, potato-colored flesh.

Pale potatoes.

Quelle surprise! My purple potatoes weren’t purple at all! Alas – they were just regular ol’ taters masquerading in more appealing skins. However, I did not let their [admittedly disappointing] pale innards sway me from my desire for soup; I soldiered on with the recipe as written. And even though the results were nowhere near as striking as they would’ve been otherwise, this soup was still a flavorful, filling delight.

Top-down image of a bowl of pale soup, a spoon, and a spice jar of dried cilantro.

100% not purple.

Don’t let its rather lackluster appearance fool you – this is a truly tasty soup. The lime, chili peppers, and cilantro (even though I had to use dried!) made for more vibrant flavors than one typically finds with potato-based soups. I made sure to puree about half of it, so that there were still some potato chunks to contrast with the otherwise smooth texture. S and I were both pleasantly surprised with our meal, and it’s definitely going on my make-again list.

Next time, though, I’ll use truly purple potatoes.

Bad-Mood Food

I did not have a fantastic Tuesday. It started out just fine, but by the end of the day, I was in a rather dour mood. Everything annoyed me – my skirt kept clinging to my tights in an irritating fashion; my office was cold and I was shivering; I had a headache… you know, typical #firstworldproblems. My life’s so tough, right?

I left work “early,” meaning “right around 5:00,” which meant I was caught in that post-work rush of people leaving campus, which meant I had to deal with traffic, which meant I became even more annoyed during my drive home. (Of course, my version of “traffic” means “more than five cars lined up waiting to turn,” so take that complaint with a large grain of salt.) Whilst waiting in “traffic,” I decided to take advantage of my otherwise-empty car by yelling colorful language quite loudly, and by the time I got home I felt slightly more chipper. However, the thought of making dinner did not appeal to me. Luckily, I had an easy out stored in my freezer: Gardein buffalo wings.

Generally, I’m fairly ambivalent about fake meat. I never crave it, but neither do I shun it completely. I enjoy it every once in a while as a novelty; I like variety in my diet. So when the buffalo wings were on sale at my co-op last week, I thought, why not? And on that bad-mood Tuesday, all I wanted was some sort of easy, tasty comfort food. Enter the wings.

Wingzorz!

I pan-fried these guys and served them up with the Pineapple Collards from Appetite for Reduction. These organic collards also came from the co-op; I found them in the “not-so-hot produce” bin and snatched them up for mere pennies (okay, a dollar or so). I love the co-op’s idea of not-so-hot produce – I also bought five organic green bell peppers for $1.19, and they had nary a scratch on them. Score! Anyway, I had some frozen pineapple, so I thought I’d try to conquer my aversion to sweetness in otherwise-savory dishes and trust Isa. I’m glad I did, too – these were actually really, really good! They had a bit of a kick to them from the red pepper flakes and the ginger, but the pineapple provided a smooth, sweet counterpoint.

And the wings? Well, they were so-so. I’ve also had Gardein’s crispy tenders, and I really liked those. But these wings were a little boring, a bit too squishy and flavorless for my taste (although the sauce was mighty spicy!). Still, this was exactly what I wanted for my bad-mood dinner. Served with a side of oat-bread toast, I had a comforting, filling, and mostly healthy dinner. And after eating, my bad mood was reduced by 47%, give or take. Maybe I was just hungry all along. :)

What foods do you crave when you’re in a bad mood? Any thoughts on Gardein?

In Which I am Helped by Tempeh

A couple nights ago, I made the Tempeh Helper from Appetite for Reduction. It was the first time I’d had *anything* Helper.

When I was a kid, my parents (by which I really mean my mom) refused to keep junk food in the house. While my classmates had Gushers and Capri Suns and those adorably small bags of Doritos overflowing from their Power Rangers lunch boxes, I had baby carrots and leaky thermoses of juice and homemade peanut butter and cracker sandwiches waiting for me. While my friends gleefully gorged on Captain Crunch for breakfast, I mournfully munched on cornflakes. While my peers sucked down Coke, I sipped on water. Soda and artificial colors and chips were just not welcome in my house, thank you very much. I always looked forward to road trips with my dad, because I knew he was more tolerant of junk food and would stock up on Pringles and Arizona iced tea. Score!

So, perhaps needless to say, we didn’t really keep any sort of Helper around the house, hamburger or otherwise. Therefore, my experience with Isa’s Tempeh Helper was my virgin foray into being Helped. Rawr!

The help.

I totally ignored Isa’s pasta recommendation for this dish and made it with my new favorite pasta shape, cavatappi. I can’t get enough of those big ol’ spirals! And I think it worked; they paired nicely with my “rustic” chunks of tempeh.

So, what did I think about this Helper experience? Well, it was tasty, but not mindblowingly amazing. I love me a nutritional yeast-based sauce, but I honestly felt that the Easy Breezy Cheezy sauce was a teensy bit bland. The sauce calls for two tablespoons of broth powder, and Isa recommends Frontier’s “chicken” broth powder. I was quite excited to discover that my co-op carries many a Frontier powder (thanks for the co-op membership, mum!), so I happily purchased a small bag of said powder. However, the Tempeh Helper recipe also calls for two tablespoons of the same broth powder, and I felt that the entire recipe (Helper + sauce) was sort of a one note deal – the “chicken” broth flavor overpowered everything else! Now, maybe that’s the allure of the Helper franchise, and perhaps anyone who grew up on Hamburger Helper would take one bit of the Tempeh Helper and be walloped with a massive smack of nostalgia. But my Helper-less childhood rendered me immune to those sort of attacks. That said, it was still a totally satisfying meal, and I’d probably consider making it again… but I’d mix up the spices for sure.

Were you a junk-food-deprived kid like me, or were your parents less strict? Have you tried Isa’s Tempeh Helper? What did you think?

Vegan Madness in RI, and Pasta con Broc-occoli

GUYS. Get this – according to Go Dairy Free, the world’s first vegan ice cream truck is based out of – wait for it – Rhode Island. For serious! I’m swelling with Rhody pride for my little Ocean State. Why wasn’t I aware of this when I actually lived in RI?! Not only can RI vegans get their ice cream fix from a bangin’ purple truck, but they can also satisfy sugar cravings at a vegan bakery and juice bar that opened recently. When my mom visited me in February, she brought a bag of their cookies for us to share, and they were yummy! Admittedly, they needed a turn in the microwave to restore them to optimal softness, but they’d traveled 1200 miles across the country, so can you really blame them? I’ll ask Mom to buy me a fresher cookie when I go back home in May for my little brother’s college graduation (eek).

Speaking of my mom, she has a weird little habit of saying “broc-occoli” instead of “broccoli.” Not all the time (that would be annoying), but fairly frequently. So sometimes, when I cook with broccoli (more than fairly frequently), I call it broc-occoli in my head. I definitely did that a couple night’s ago when I tried one of the recipes from Appetite for Reduction recipes that’s garnered the most attention – Pasta con Broccoli.

Now, lemme just clarify something here. I do not actually have an appetite for reduction. I am not trying to lose weight. Being a bit on the skinny side, I’m a bit hypersensitive about those sorts of misunderstandings; I don’t want anyone to think I’m unhappy with myself and am on a diet. I was even a little hesitant about buying AfR because I felt like people would see it on my cookbook shelf and make silent assumptions. :( But a good cookbook is a good cookbook, and I am not going to deprive myself of delicious recipes just because someone might silently assume things. Pshaw.

Anyway, Pasta con Broccoli. It’s gotten rave reviews from many of my bloggy friends, so I decided to give it a whirl a couple nights ago. I’ll admit that I had my misgivings; it seemed a little… boring. And, honestly, it doesn’t look extremely exciting.

PCB

It’s pretty, sure, but it doesn’t look like a dish that’d send you into throes of culinary ecstasy or make you starry-eyed with gastronomical pleasure. And honestly, I was a little underwhelmed at first. Now, I’ll admit that I omitted the balsamic vinegar because that shit is nasty (sorry, 99% of the world), so probably I lost some flavor there. It was tasty, sure, and the broc-occoli itself was excellent, but overall I didn’t quite get what everyone had raved about. But I had extra, and despite my distaste for leftover pasta, I ate it for lunch the next day. And you know what? Because the pasta had soaked up the leftover sauce, it was so much more flavorful! I can totally see why people add this to their regular dinner rotation; it’s easy and yummy. If I made it again, I’d let it sit in the pan for longer to let the flavors really get it on. Rawr. Nothin’ like hot broccoli-on-pasta action to spice up your night. ;)

Do you have AfR? Have you tried the Pasta con Broccoli? What do you think? And more importantly… how awesome is RI for sporting a vegan ice cream truck!?